Where Will Climate Change Affect Health the Most?

A new online tool maps where Americans’ health may be most vulnerable to climate change

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released an interactive tool today that maps climate-related health risks across the country, including extreme heat, poor air quality, drought, flooding, and infectious diseases. The maps present a snapshot of current health vulnerabilities using recent data at the state and county levels.

“If we stay on our present course, we can expect these health vulnerabilities from climate change to accelerate” said NRDC Senior Scientist Kim Knowlton on a conference call with reporters. “We need to prepare for the worst in extreme events and the health vulnerabilities that will result.” Continue reading

California Cities Confront Water Challenges

Scientists and planners expect the Bay Area to face a host of water-related threats in the coming decades due to climate change, including flooding due to rising seas and summer water shortages due to warmer temperatures and a shrinking Sierra snowpack.

A new analysis released Tuesday from the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council catalogs these threats, for San Francisco, and for 11 other American cities, including Los Angeles. The study also looks at how prepared the cities are to adapt to these climate challenges. It finds, in general, that San Francisco is leading the way when it comes to being prepared. Continue reading

Reducing Emissions with Inflated Tires

The state Air Resources Board passed a new regulation this week designed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.  It requires auto shops to check the tires on their customers’ vehicles and to inflate them to proper levels whenever they are doing an oil change or providing any other service.

CARB estimates that if every car in California had properly inflated tires, the state could save 75 million gallons of fuel and reduce emissions by 900 metric tons. Continue reading

California Counties Face Water Crunch

More than eight out of ten California counties will face frequent water shortages within 40 years. That’s the conclusion of a report released this week by Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

See complete map of California, below. (Image: NRDC)

“This report is a real eye opener,” says Theo Spencer, senior advocate for the NRDC’s Climate Center. “It shows the toll climate change will take on the water resources in the U.S.”

Tetra Tech projects that climate change will exacerbate water problems in more than a third of counties across the US. In California, the outlook is worse. Forty-eight counties (83%) will be at risk by 2050, and 19 counties are on the critical list, those the report describes as under “extreme risk.” Only ten counties, mostly at the northern end of the state, were assigned to the low-risk category.

Continue reading

Long, Hot Summer for Climate Bill

capitoldome_hr_blogAs California’s Barbara Boxer opened Senate hearings on the Waxman-Markey climate bill today, her committee was urged by Republicans not to “rush through this thing.” At this point there seems to be little danger of that.

Having squeaked through the House by the thinnest of margins, the American Clean Energy and Security Act is facing a gantlet of Senate committees that will likely spend most of the summer dissecting the 1400-page beast.

Boxer’s Environmental and Public Woks Committee heard testimony today, with Finance and Foreign Relations scheduled to have their whack at it tomorrow. During the latter, expect to hear gruesome details about Europe’s experiment with cap & trade, which has been fraught with problems. Peter Fairley recently provided an excellent overview of those pitfalls in MIT’s Technology Review. Fairley writes that in its current form, the Waxman bill is destined to hit many of the same potholes.

During today’s morning session, members of the Energy committee heard from several cabinet-level officials, including Department of Energy Secretary Steve Chu, who fielded numerous questions on the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy future. While California still has in place a legislated moratorium on new nuclear plants, Chu assured committee members that restarting the nuclear industry is a “very important factor” in the low-carbon future and that faces “no reluctance” from him.
Chu said his department is “pushing as hard as we can” to provide loan guarantees for new plant construction (most of which is planned for the southeastern U.S.). The former head of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab said that the U.S. has lost the lead on nuclear technology and “should get it back.”

(We’ll look at the prospects for that in a Climate Watch radio feature, scheduled to air on the August 24th broadcast of KQED’s Quest radio series.)

Committee Republicans repeated concerns about potential job losses and the danger of “carbon leakage,” wonk-speak for when production moves overseas to countries where it creates more greenhouse gas emissions than it would here.

As in the House floor debate, Republicans recalled a comment made by then-candidate Barack Obama to the San Francisco Chronicle in January of last year, that electricity rates would “necessarily skyrocket” under cap-and-trade. David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council countered that the act would also offer some savings; that households could see “up to $14 per month” in savings from transportation efficiencies.